Simon and Schuster, 2016 435 pages
Arc of a Scythe series #1
Welcome to the future, where society has finally solved the world's problems of poverty, wars, crime, and death. The jails have become obsolete, people can live forever, and if you become too old you can simply cycle back to whatever age you feel like living. In order to control the population Scythes have been chosen and trained to select and kill people. Some Scythes appear to select randomly, while others appear more premeditated. Other variations include the degree of empathy and mercy shown in the gleaning. Two previously unacquainted teenagers are selected by the seasoned Scythe Faraday to serve as apprentices and learn the art of killing. At the quarterly Scythe concave it is determined that only one of these apprentices shall move ahead to the position of Scythe and upon reaching the position must glean the other. Further complications arise when Scythe Faraday disappears after apparently self-gleaning. Citra is sent to study under a very famous and merciful Scythe, while Rowan is sent to learn from a psycho-path who uses his position to quench his thirst for murder. Both apprentices are receiving very different training, preparing for their final test and eventual gleaning of the other. Will Rowan turn as blood-thirsty as his new master? Who will win the appointment to Scythe-hood? And what really happened to Scythe Faraday? These and other questions will answered within the pages of this original and exciting new book.
Veteran author, Shusterman, is no stranger to writing clever concept books set in the future. His ideas always are interesting and fresh and make the reader see the world in a new way. Scythe deservedly won a Printz honor this year and is no exception to the author's usual style. You have to wonder that if humans figure out a way to live forever than what do you do about population control? The creation of Scythes is an interesting answer to this dilemma. Then, once it has been determined that Scyths will control the population, you might think, what would happen if a Scythe went bad? Having complete power and control over others has to be an overwhelming responsibility and it is easy to see how this power can be abused and how the job can get to people, especially after doing it for several hundred years. Shusterman has created a fully-realized society and a believable, yet fanciful, dytopian view of our future. The characters are multi-dimensional and the reader will relate to and root for both apprentices. This book will appeal to both girls and boys and is a perfect choice for book clubs. It ran a little long for me, but the plot was so interesting, I almost didn't mind. Excepts from the gleaning journals of some of the featured mastered Scythes are used to introduce chapters and round out the story in a different way, adding a further dimension. Even though most major plot threads are sewn up, one major plot point is left wide open, inviting the reader to look for the second book in the intended series, once it is published.